We can be very hard on ourselves, can’t we? It’s as if, sometimes, we’re watching out for any tiny hint of a mistake, and then we pounce on ourselves, getting angry, or frustrated, or ashamed. I suspect it’s because we can be. When people are allowed or encouraged to be cruel, they often will be. There’s some inherent cruelty in all of us (to varying extents) and this is kept in check by social norms. Change the social norms so that cruelty is encouraged, and it soon emerges. Here’s the Buddha tells us of another way. We don’t need to be demons to ourselves or others. We simple need to ask the demons to tea.
I see you Mara, stay for Tea!
“One of my favorite stories of the Buddha shows the power of a wakeful and friendly heart. On the morning of Buddha’s enlightenment Mara, the fearsome demon who symbolizes the shadow-side of human nature, fled in defeat and disarray. In Sanskrit “Mara” means “delusion” – that craving and fear that obscure our enlightened nature.
But it seems that he was only temporarily discouraged. Even after the Buddha had embarked on his teaching career and become a revered figure throughout Indian, Mara continued to make unexpected appearances. Instead of driving him away, however, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge the demon’s presence saying, “I see you, Mara.”He would then invite him for tea and serve him as an honored guest.
Offering Mara a cushion so that he could sit comfortably, the Buddha would fill two earthen cups with tea and place them on a low table between them. Mara would stay for awhile and then go, but throughout, the Buddha remained free and undisturbed.
You see, when Mara visits us in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories, we can say, “I see you Mara,” and clearly recognize the craving and fear that persists in each human heart. The objective is to see what is true and to hold what is seen with kindness….
Our habit of being a fair-weather friend to ourselves – of pushing away or ignoring whatever darkness we can – is deeply entrenched…. We truly befriend ourselves when, rather than resisting our experience, we open our hearts and willingly invite Mara to tea.”
From Tara Brach’s, Radical Acceptance